When Stars Begin To Fall

Written by Denise Williamson
Review by Meredith Campbell

After leaving slavery behind, 1851 finds a devout Joseph Whitsun practicing medicine in a small, Negro community outside Philadelphia. Legally, Negroes cannot be doctors so his ministrations are secret and his prayers, numerous.

Mayleda, daughter of the plantation owner who freed Joseph, escaped her abhorred plantation life and married a compassionate abolitionist, but now is widowed and lives in Philadelphia. Forced to live with her prominent in-laws, Mayleda has become a pious Quaker. With their grudging permission she nurses Negro patients in Dr. Ellis’s clinic. A Quaker abolitionist, Dr. Ellis surreptitiously trained Joseph.

Because of the 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, slavers freely hunt down runaways to the north. Mayleda’s attempt to rescue a Negro child reunites her with old friend Joseph. Tragic consequences result. One to suffer with them is bachelor shopkeeper Charles Powell. A non-Quaker Christian, Powell struggles with his own prejudices.

Powell’s struggle becomes the reader’s as events rapidly unwind, slowed only when characters become preachy. However, this satisfying love-story sequel to When the Dark Sun Rises proclaims the Christian message so that the reader is profoundly uplifted. Meticulously researched, this unflinching view of the African-American experience reassures that fear and hate flee when overcome by faith and love.